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Saturday, March 14, 2015

More on the Knoxville Museum of Art Acquisition of Beauford Delaney Paintings


As a follow-up to the Les Amis blog post entitled Knoxville Museum of Art Acquires Beauford Delaney Paintings, Stephen C. Wicks - Barbara W. and Bernard E. Bernstein Curator at the Knoxville Museum of Art in Beauford's hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee - shares comments about the museum's recent acquisition of several Beauford Delaney paintings and drawings. The number of works acquired has now grown to thirty-seven (37)!

Watercolors make up one of the largest portion of works in the Beauford Delaney estate. I went through the entire contents and selected a group of works on paper that I thought best captured the range of Beauford’s artistic experimentation over a broad span of his career. Of the works on paper we purchased, three are featured in Higher Ground1.

Untitled, circa 1945 is a city scene in which the artist has distilled his surroundings into a series of flat geometric shapes rendered in radiant colors. The halos around the street lights suggest it is evening, but the glowing scene appears devoid of any trace of shadow.

Untitled, circa 1945
Watercolor on paper
15 1/2 x 22 1/2 inches
Purchased with funds provided by the KMA’s Collectors Circle2, 2014
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

Untitled (Clamart), 1959 is a fiery composition built of multiple layers of watercolor, gouache, and faint areas of chalk. It appears to radiate heat, as if you are descending into the heart of the sun. I think it’s one of the most exciting abstractions I’ve ever seen, and it possesses a depth and complexity that can only be appreciated by direct viewing. Interestingly, I came across an upside-down signature along the top margin with a notation “Clamart 1958”, which suggests that Delaney originally oriented the painting so that the dark orange portion was at the bottom. He later signed and dated it at the other end “Beauford Delaney 1959."

Untitled (Clamart), 1959
Watercolor and gouache on paper
24 1/2 x 18 inches
Purchased with funds provided by the KMA’s Collectors Circle2, 2014
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator


Untitled (Clamart), 1959 - detail of notation Clamart 1958
Watercolor and gouache on paper
24 1/2 x 18 inches
Purchased with funds provided by the KMA’s Collectors Circle2, 2014
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

Untitled, 1960 features swirling watercolor marks rendered in a broad range of colors laid out in a square area on a rectangular piece of paper. I’m used to seeing the artist use every inch of his surface, and so this work struck me as interesting and unusual for the fact that he chose this compositional approach. We purchased this work from the estate thanks to funds provided by distinguished collectors Brenda and Larry Thompson.

Untitled, 1960
Watercolor on paper
26 x 19 3/4 inches
Purchased with funds provided by Brenda and Larry Thompson, 2014
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

1The Knoxville Museum of Art’s exhibition Higher Ground: A Century of the Visual Arts in East Tennessee is a permanent installation that traces the development of fine art and craft in the region and the surrounding area over the past century. It tells the largely unknown story of the area’s rich artistic history and its connections to the larger currents of American art. Featured works are drawn from the KMA collection along with selected works on loan from several regional museums and private collections.

2KMA Collectors Circle is a special membership group that supports the museum’s efforts to acquire works of art.

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